Australian socialists on border controls

July 1, 2011

From the July 2011 issue of The Spark

On World Refugee Day, the 19th of June 2011, hundreds of people marched in Melbourne under the slogan “unite to end mandatory detention.” After the march Ian Anderson who is on the editorial team of The Spark caught up with leading members of the Socialist Party of Australia, Mel Gregson and Anthony Main.

The Spark: So the movement against mandatory detention of refugees has made headlines in recent months. Could you go a bit into the background of this?

AM: Australia has practiced mandatory detention of refugees since 1992, when it was introduced under the Labor government. Refugees arriving by boats are placed in detention centres while their claims are processed. Often this takes months, and in some cases 6-7 years to process, while the refugees are kept like animals. At various points the mass anger and frustration over these brutal conditions have led to protests and riots. There is also a small but growing solidarity movement on the mainland.

MG: The Howard government tried to negate Australia’s obligations under the UN treaty by processing refugees offshore, at detention centres on Christmas Island, in Nauru, Papa New Guinea and elsewhere. The Rudd government was elected in 2007 on a platform of a “more humane” refugee policy, but ultimately reverted to a similar policy to the Howard government. Most recently, the Gillard government announced a policy of sending refugees to Malaysia. Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN convention, and even deploys state-sanctioned militias to cane refugees. There are numerous deaths and tens of thousands of canings a year. Read the rest of this entry »


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